So, you lost your job. Naturally you are upset, and likely disappointed. But what if you also believe that you were terminated for an unfair and possibly illegal reason? While most employees are “at will,” meaning they can be let go without cause, some employment contracts require specific reasons for terminating the employee. Also, just because an employee is “at will” does not mean that there are no restrictions on what they may be terminated for because some reasons for termination are illegal.
If you suspect your termination was illegal, make sure you know your rights. Here are some ways in which your termination might have been illegal:
- Your contract provides you with job protections – Did you sign an employment contract? Did it provide you with job security or state that you could only be terminated under certain conditions? If so, then you were not an “at will” employee. The contract might state that you could be terminated for “good cause,” or that there were certain specified reasons that you could be terminated. If the stated reasons were not met, your termination might have been a breach of contract, and therefore illegal.It is also possible, though harder to prove, that your employer implied your job had more protections by promising that it would last for a certain duration or by assuring you of your continued employment.
- Your employer breached practices of good faith and fair dealing – Let’s say that your employment contract guarantees you a salary increase or bonus at a certain time, and your employer fires you just before you meet it in order to avoid the payout. Or perhaps your employment contract protects your job, so because they cannot fire you, your employer repeatedly forces you to work in dangerous or undesirable places in an effort to cause you to quit. Here your employer might have breached their duty of good faith and fair dealing, but the standards and requirements for this claim will vary by state.
- Your employer discriminated against you – Even if you are an “at will” employee, you cannot be fired because of your race, sex, religion, national origin, age, a disability, or pregnancy. Other protections may exist depending on the states.
- Whistleblower retaliation – If you were terminated in retaliation for exposing your employer’s legal violation, you are likely protected by a whistleblower statute. Whistleblower protection statutes make it illegal for employers to terminate employees for exposing violations of statutes.
- Other retaliation – If you were fired because you filed a claim against a supervisor for sexual harassment or discrimination, this would be seen as retaliation, and your termination would qualify as a wrongful dismissal.
- Your employer fired you against public policy – If you were terminated for a reason that would be viewed as illegitimate to society at large, your termination might be illegal for violating public policy. If you were terminated after missing work for jury duty, or because you serve in the National Guard then your termination is likely illegal. Some other protected actions might be filing a claim for workers’ compensation or exercising another legal right.
- Violations of the employers own procedures – If the employer has a company policy that sets rules, for example in an employee handbook, regarding how an employee may be fired, and the company disregarded their own policy, this might be a case of wrongful termination.
If you believe that the reason you lost your job might be illegal, you should contact an attorney to discuss your case and to seek compensation for your losses.
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At Stern Law, PLLC, we have compassionate and caring attorneys ready to work with you to find the best solution to your employment law related legal issues. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 for a free consolation with an experienced employment attorney.